As a Tourist, as an Alien

            “I pledge allegiance to the Flag-”
It was when I was still in elementary school
I wore my fancier clothes that day.
I remember going downtown, to some important building,
Hands over our hearts,
As my mom and dad and sister and me took
Our citizenship exam.

            “of the United States of America-”
I thought I was truly American by that time,
But was stricken in realization, bearing the name
Of “immigrant” and “alien”
Bearing the green card that permitted our foreign residency.
All this time, I had remembered the pledge, the anthem, the capitals, the states;
I considered America to be my truer home.

            “and to the Republic for which it stands-”
The Philippines, I distantly belonged to,
paraded a tourist around people who looked like me,
But the earliest memory I have at all
was when I was 4.
Recently moved, already looking out
from a small apartment in Meridian, Mississippi.

            “one nation, under God, indivisible-”
I remember my words had once been divided
As a hybrid of Tagalog and English.
Their living room was my sala , their car was my coche .
Until I realized that the people who didn’t look like me
Didn’t say these kinds of words at all. It was then,
I decided to speak in English entirely.

            “with liberty and justice for all.”
The pledge I had recited so many times before
Slipped its final words through my English-speaking tongue.
In my fancier clothes, we stood facing the flag
and all the others who didn't look like everyone else
I released my hand from above my heart
As a Filipino, as an American.

--Xavier A., 9th-12th Grade.